In those days, everyone was unified. Everyone had friends from SH and Riordan, which had just started, and we used to all meet at the dances Friday night at one of the three schools. We were all interested in girls at that time.
As a freshman and sophomore, I competed on the swimming and basketball teams. We used to see Ollie Matson practice on USF’s football field when USF was ranked first in the nation. Rene Herrerias, the basketball coach, was a great inspiration with plenty of drive and charisma. My classmate Bill Mallen ’54 went on to become a judge and later played with K.C. Jones for USF’s basketball team.
Warren White was an outgoing and inspiring English teacher who took a great interest in the students and ran the playhouse. Mr. Dennis, later Fr. Dennis, ran the paper where I worked drawing cartoons, poking a little editorial fun at the students and staff.
— Edward Boblits (Jahn) ’54
• • •
We had great young Jesuit scholastics and priests, including Mr. Ed McFadden, Mr. John LoSchiavo and Mr. George Dennis. Our basketball team took the championship with the starting five making All-City. We had a nice contingent of guys who commuted to school from Oakland. Think of the time those guys had to get up in the morning to catch the ferry!
— Denis Ragan ’51
• • •
Our class started in 1953. The school asked us to us sell tickets to raise funds to build a field house with a swimming pool, with the first prize being a trip to Hawaii. The student who sold the most tickets for his class was given a day off from school. (Jim Gallagher ’57, who later served as Sonoma County Assessor for many years, earned that distinction.) We sold tickets for four years and raised thousands and thousands of dollars, but SI never built that field house.
When Pat Malley started coaching, he told us we were going to beat Poly. When we played them the first time, they kicked our behinds. We then played Poly in the semifinals and beat them. That was the happiest day of Pat Malley’s life. He had convinced us that we could beat Poly and we believed him. The newspapers used to write about us as the stumbling, bumbling and fumbling team. But under Malley, we had a tremendous defense. Nobody scored much on us. SH had a famous fullback, Walt Arnold, who went on to play at UC Berkeley, and we held him to 6 yards rushing one game. Our fullback, Gil Dowd ’57, had a banner day and went on to star at Stanford.
After the earthquake of 1957 our class (4-D) was in the chemistry lab on the fourth floor of the old building on Stanyan Street. After all the beakers and vials stopped shaking, our teacher, a young Jesuit scholastic named Mr. Lentz told us all to sit down and be calm, and he would check out the situation. He proceeded to leave us in the lab, went down the hall, and was not seen again that day.
— John Strain ’57
• • •
In 1945 when I was 10, I lived close to Kezar, and my uncle, who had graduated from Poly, took me to see what he thought would be a Poly massacre of SI. SI won 13–7 for the city championship. My uncle had a temper, so I had to hold all my joy within, smiling on the way home.
SI was a big ROTC school. After freshman year, you either took Greek or ROTC. Either in my sophomore or junior year, Life magazine was going to do a big spread on SI’s ROTC program, as it was one of the largest in the country. The photographer stood on top of scaffolding to take a picture out on what is now USF’s soccer field. All the ROTC officers assembled us and had us stand at attention looking at the camera. To be funny, one row of 10 or 20 kids faced the opposite direction, away from the camera. The photographer didn’t discover this until he developed the prints. The magazine never ran the picture because of that one row. Some students were upset even though no one could have identified himself as the faces would have been so small. But we could have had national exposure.
J.B. Murphy taught me algebra in my freshman year. He was down-to-earth and sincere; he wanted you to succeed. I always respected him. I remember many teachers had to have summer jobs, and I worked side by side with Bernie at Hamms and Burgermeister. It was strange working with him as a colleague.
Frank Corwin was such a great storyteller that students would much rather listen to his stories than pay attention to the course. He told us about the Egyptian red ants that would eat a tire as it moved and about swords that would fly through the air and decapitate someone who spat by mistake in the high holy places in Egypt.
My companions made my time at SI so enjoyable. At my 50-year reunion, I realized just how proud I am to have associated with these people for so long. We now get together four times a year, and we can just be ourselves. If you happen to be well-to-do, great; if not, no big deal.
— Charlie Leach ’53
• • •
SI’s old high school gym was built before USF had its own gym. Fr. Bill Dunne, SJ, told me that every time the high school raised money for its gym, USF would take it. To keep that from happening, the SI Jesuits began putting their money in coffee cans in the principal’s office. They did that for 15 years, never showing it to the college president. When they had enough for a down payment on the gym, they brought those coffee cans filled with money to the treasurer’s office.
— Pete Devine ’66
• • •
When disputes arose among boys at SI, they settled them in a place we called The Pits. There had been a large building in Golden Gate Park across from St. Mary’s Hospital, but only the foundations remained. It was a big deal in the 1950s and 1960s for kids to go there to fight after school, and sometimes those fights would draw hundreds of students.
— Chuck Murphy ’61
• • •
My first year at SI was marked by austerity, symbolized by Bellarmine beating us 55–7. We had a small playground but great camaraderie with 1,000 guys from all over the city thrown together. In those days, you stayed together with same 30 people all day and all year, and after four years, the friendships were strong. Pat Malley was one of three lay teachers in the whole school. Even though he taught freshman math and coached football, he also taught religion between the lines, and it was more than I learned in religion class. One day he told about some kids who knocked an old lady down in a bus, and he made an impression about how rotten a thing that was. He explained that war isn’t against bad people but against evil.
Because of the lack of facilities, we had to take physics during the upperclass lunch period and had lunch with the lowerclassmen. We never ate anything. About 15 of us would make a mad dash to the basketball courts outside the chapel, to the one good basketball court. The first 10 guys that made a basket got to play, and we’d play the entire lunch period. We spilled a little blood on occasion: It was like the SH game every lunch period. With all I was doing, I felt life was flying by and just wanted to savor every minute. It was also a great way to relieve stress.
— Fr. Fran Stiegeler, SJ ’61
• • •
I entered SI late in November 1949 after my family moved to San Francisco from Berkeley. I had Frank Corwin for history, and when he found out I had roots in Utah, he told me he had worked there the year before but had been almost fired for “moral turpitude” for smoking. I couldn’t believe that anyone would kick out a teacher straight from service in Africa. When I met Fr. Andy Gilligan, SJ, he looked at my name and said, “Oh no, not another Dago!” and he proceeded to tell Leo LaRocca and Frank Ravetti to come up and take care of me. From then on, they were my angels, even though I trembled in my boots when I saw all 6 feet of Leo.
Mr. Ed McFadden, SJ ’41, taught Latin by walking along the railing of the window with a yardstick acting out the role of Caesar. Geometry was taught by Fr. Ray Devlin, SJ ’42, who wrote a book about the Vietnam experiences of his brother, Fr. Joe Devlin, SJ. Br. Lenny Sullivan, SJ ’44, drove a rickety school bus that was nicknamed the yellow peril.
The classroom was like the movie The Blackboard Jungle. It was students against teachers. We had some crazy priests, including Fr. Charlie McKee, SJ, who claimed to be an ex-boxer. This man, who taught a course using Modern Youth & Chastity, shoved me down the center stairs and against a locker for something I did that angered him. At one point, he made derogatory remarks about Leo LaRocca’s date. Leo reached a point where he had all he could take. He grabbed the priest by the throat and said, “If you weren’t wearing this cassock, I’d clobber you,” or words to that effect.
The teachers running detention would come up with neat little tricks to punish us. We would kneel on the floor on pencils for 45 minutes, and if you squirmed, you stayed longer. If you got in the way of Fr. Ray Pallas, SJ ’32, he’d whack you with his cane.
I had some excellent teachers, such as Fr. Pierre Jacobs, SJ ’31, who taught chemistry. I was amazed to earn a “B” in that course, as he was a tough teacher. On the first day of class, he impressed upon us how dangerous the course could be by holding up a pair of pants minus the crotch that had been burned away from an acid spill. Warren White was a fantastic English teacher, and he inspired me to study English at USF. I worked stage crew for him for Billy Budd and Look Homeward Angel at the Marines Memorial Theatre.
— Fr. Paul Capitolo, SJ ’53